Constipation – what to do?

Diese Tipps helfen gegen Verstopfung

If you suffer from constipation, you're not alone. Around 20% of the world’s population have the same condition. Stress and an unhealthy diet are the most common causes of constipation.

At what point do we speak of constipation?

Bowel frequency varies from person to person, with anything between three times a day and three times a week considered normal. But if bowel movements don't occur for more than four days, we speak of constipation.

Causes of constipation

There are many different causes of constipation, and the actual cause often remains unclear. In general, a distinction is made between non-specific causes and intestinal diseases.

Non-specific causes of constipation

  • Intestinal inertia – occurs more frequently in women, small children and older people and is also due to individual predisposition
  • Medication that reduces bowel movements, such as morphine
  • Psychological stress
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor diet, such as one lacking in fibre, insufficient fluid intake or an unfamiliar diet when travelling
  • Excessive use of laxatives
  • Impaired evacuation of the bowels

Intestinal diseases as a cause

  • Diverticulosis, ulcerative colitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Appendicitis
  • Narrowing of the bowel, for example due to tumours
  • A medical condition around the anus such as a mucosal tear or haemorrhoids
  • Bowel prolapse

Relieve constipation

A doctor or laxative medication isn’t always needed to relieve constipation. The right diet, more exercise and less stress are often enough to help. But if constipation is caused by an intestinal disease, this should be treated.

High-fibre diet

Foods with lower fat levels, but higher levels of protein and fibre stimulate digestion naturally. These include whole grain products such as bread, pasta, brown rice, lentils, beans, oats, chickpeas and nuts. Apart from bananas, which tend to be constipating, vegetables and fruit are also important sources of fibre. In general, soft foods are better for bowel movements.

Drink plenty

If you eat a high-fibre diet or are incorporating more natural laxatives into your meals, you need to drink plenty of fluids. It’s especially important to drink a glass of water after consuming foods such as wheat bran that swell in the gut. Ideally you should drink 2 litres of unsweetened fluids over the course of a day.

Enough physical exercise

Daily exercise is another important factor in preventing constipation – and it doesn’t have to be highly athletic. A good walk, swim or bike ride is enough to stimulate the body’s natural bowel movements. Abdominal muscle training, regular pelvic floor training and yoga are also good methods.

Home remedies for constipation

There are various home remedies that help with constipation. Foods with a natural laxative effect are often recommended. Natural laxatives include dried fruits like figs and prunes, as well as sauerkraut, beetroot, flaxseed, wheat bran and psyllium. However, it takes a few hours for the effect to take place. Important: when starting with laxative foods, increase the amount slowly so as to avoid flatulence. These home remedies are often used to ease constipation:

  • Flaxseed: this is a good source of fibre and promotes bowel movement, digestion and defecation. It can be added to muesli, yoghurt or smoothies, for example.
  • Psyllium: psyllium husks bind a lot of water which increases the volume of the stool, making it softer and more slippery. This can relieve constipation.
  • Prune juice: the juice has natural laxative properties. This is due to the many fibres in the fruit and the sugar alcohol sorbitol it contains.
  • Dried fruit: figs, prunes and similar dried fruits are rich in fibre and help with constipation, provided you drink plenty of water at the same time.
  • Olive oil: one to two tablespoons of virgin olive oil on an empty stomach can relieve constipation. Olive oil acts as a natural lubricant and stimulates the intestinal mucosa.
  • Warm lemon water: a glass of warm water with lemon juice in the morning stimulates digestion and can relieve constipation.

Medicinal laxativesl

Natural laxatives don’t work for everyone. In this case, medicinal laxatives are often taken. Laxatives work in different ways: some stimulate bowel movements, others draw water into the bowel.

Avoid stress

People under stress release more hormones, including adrenalin. This slows down intestinal activity and causes constipation. In stressful situations, it’s better to shift down a gear and find time for relaxation exercises. And try not to take your stress with you to the bathroom, but give yourself enough time.

If neither dietary changes nor lifestyle adjustments help relieve constipation, it’s worth seeing a doctor.

What would you like to read now?